Tuesday 31 January 2017

Swans v Southampton Preview

Paul Clement will be ruing the fact that the Swans didn’t play at the weekend to try and maintain the positivity drawn from the win over Liverpool but plenty of rest will no doubt see his side in better shape than tonight’s opponents Southampton who have been in cup action throughout the last week.

Mixed fortunes for the visitors tonight; a nail biting two leg tie with Liverpool ending in victory and a place in the EFL Cup final and then total collapse as Arsenal romped to a 5-0 win over the Saints – Ouch!

Where does that leave us? Well, I’d say in pole position frankly. Our defensive frailties are still cause for concern but Clement has instilled a classic managerial belief into the team: if they score, we’ll just score more.

Great news as Fernando Llorente looks set to stay, at least until the summer, and Luciano Narsingh stands a good chance of making his debut – albeit from the bench most likely. Ki Sung-Yueng is back after a calf problem but both Leon Britton and the exciting Oli McBurnie both miss out.

Plenty of injury worries for Southampton but one key name is still absent for the Saints. Virgil Van Dijk, the highly rated and much talked about centre back, is set to miss out yet again with an ankle injury meaning Llorente might find a bit more space in the air than he might’ve been expecting.

Claude Puel clearly wasn’t interested in an FA Cup run this season as he made 10 changes to the side that beat Liverpool in the EFL Cup for the trip to the Emirates – does that mean he’s pushing for a decent finish in the league? Does that mean his side are good enough to beat us? Who knows!

Last time out, in the reverse fixture, Southampton won by a single goal that seems to be a regular occurrence between us and the Saints. The last three meetings at the Liberty have ended 1-0 to Southampton but tonight’s the night that changes surely?

My favourite fact for today? Paul Clement has already equalled Bradley’s tally of wins and it’s taken him just three games to do it – stick that in your pipe Bradders; we’ll never know quite why you were ever appointed!

I’m thinking 2-1 tonight. I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet because frankly Shane Long is a lethal forward on his day but I don’t believe Southampton are playing well enough to stop us scoring more than they manage – I’ve been wrong before but I’m feel good about this one.

Friday 27 January 2017

Transfer Watch: Four Days to Go

With the Transfer Window closing fast; I thought it best to take a look at who could be coming, going or staying in the next few days for Swansea City. There are a few stories doing the rounds in the papers that are of particular interest; but how true they are remains to be seen:

Wayne Routledge

Birmingham City might’ve speculatively approached one of our more senior players but Wayne Routledge has committed himself to Swansea by signing a new two and a half year deal that will see him through to 2019.

20 goals in 204 games for Swansea might not seem like a great return but, as a player who’s been with us since 2011, it was vital to Clement’s cause that he secure Routledge’s services moving forwards.

Modou Barrow

A player who tends to be something of a forgotten man despite appearing 14 times to date this season; winger Modou Barrow is on the radar of Newcastle United according to their manager Rafa Benitez.

I doubt Barrow will make the move given he has been labelled a back up option if Newcastle fail to tempt Andros Townsend back to the club and he is currently plying his trade in the Premier League not the Championship.

Newcastle may be favourites to secure promotion this season but that probably won’t be enough to convince Barrow to make the move to St James’ Park.

John Terry

Not necessarily a transfer rumour; instead the opinion of former Swansea winger Leighton James. Alfie Mawson has impressed since coming to Swansea but he needs someone with Terry’s level of experience to give him the knowledge to compete at the highest.

Wages would no doubt be a concern as our pay structure wouldn’t allow for us to pay anywhere near all of Terry’s exorbitant salary but if Antonio Conte is serious about allowing Terry to leave the club on loan then we should definitely lodge a bid – we do miss the commanding presence of Ashley Williams something rotten.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Obviously, our talismanic midfielder will be linked with a raft of clubs repeatedly during any transfer window and this January has been no different.

The story has broken thanks to Dimitri Payet’s stubborn attitude towards his current employers: West Ham United. The Hammers are set to sign Robert Snodgrass from Hull City this week and Sigurdsson has been identified as the ideal creative partner for the Scottish midfielder.

I can’t see it happening personally. Even if we do get relegated this season, Sigurdsson has learned his lesson about playing for other clubs in England – his dismal spell at Tottenham will live long in his memory for certain.

The Future's Bright: Under 23's to Watch

With the Checkatrade Trophy out of our younger stars’ minds; they will no doubt be looking to impress Paul Clement in the hopes of gaining regular first team football. Some have already made their Premier League bows but who should you be keeping an eye out for in the coming weeks?

Mark Birighitti
Anyone who’s ever watch the Australian A-League will be more than familiar with one of our leading reserve ‘keepers. Five appearances thus far for the Under 23’s has seen Birighitti keep two clean sheets and the 25 year old stands a good chance of usurping Kristoffer Nordfeldt of his place on the bench in the near future.

Aaron Lewis
A very cultured defender with a knack for getting forward; Aaron Lewis reminds me very much of Luke Shaw in his early first team years at Southampton. Lewis is a big fan of Roberto Carlos and has clearly modelled much of his playing style on the legendary Brazilian. His overlapping runs and incredibly accurate crossing make him perfect back up for the recently arrived Martin Olsson.

Lewis even has family ties to the Busby Babes. His uncle is Kenny Morgans; the last survivor rescued from the plane wreckage in 1958 – clearly the 18 year old comes with strong pedigree.

George Byers
Formerly of Watford, Scottish midfielder George Byers has been a star turned in Swansea City’s Under 23 squad. Five goals in eleven appearances from midfield this season will no doubt have Paul Clement interested in giving Byers his debut for the club – he has made his professional debut for Watford in the past but only as a substitute against Charlton.

A free transfer with an eye for goal and superb distribution make George Byers a great option moving forward – it only takes one injury to a first team midfielder and Byers will be included without doubt.

Oli McBurnie
Probably the pick of the bunch in the Under 23’s – Oli McBurnie has had a busy career already and he’s only 20 years old. Starting out at Bradford City; McBurnie has had loan spells at Chester, Newport County and Bristol Rovers but has been retained by the club this season and made his debut in the EFL Cup game against Peterborough; scoring twice in the game.

McBurnie has scored 10 in 10 appearances for the Under 23’s and is knocking hard on the door of Paul Clement’s Premier league squad – it won’t be long before we’re all singing his name and hoping the club can keep hold of such a prolific talent.

CheckaTrade Trophy: Brave Swans Out on Penalties

Since the start of the season; the newly formatted Checkatrade Trophy has seen development squads included for the first time in the competitions history – for those who’ve been keeping an eye out – you’ll be more than aware of just how well our Under 21’s squad have done in the competition.
A tense quarter final against Coventry saw our younger lads tumble out of the Checkatrade Trophy on penalties but it has to be noted just how well they’ve performed throughout the course of the cup. The last 16 was a nail biter of a contest as the Swansea Under 21’s hosted Wolverhampton Wanderers development squad and eased past them to set up a quarter final tie with League One Coventry City.

3,300 fans were in attendance at the Liberty Stadium as a strong Coventry XI took to the field in the hope of beating Gary Richards and Cameron Toshack’s young squad. The Swans team included Jay Fulton, who has made 10 Premier League appearances this season so far, along with highly rated midfielder trio Alex Bray, Owain Jones and Ryan Blair.

Swansea also included Gerhard Tremmel as the only overage player in the team; the German goalkeeper is finding his chances limited in the first team despite his advancing years; he’s 38 now but has provided a solid base for the team in the Checkatrade Trophy.

It was a nervy game against Coventry despite them taking advantage of the competition’s ruling that they need only field five first team players. Four changes from the side that faced Fleetwood at the weekend meant some younger players were afforded their opportunity to shine but it wasn’t a stellar performance by any stretch of the imagination.

Chances were few and far between for both sides but the young Swans had the better of the play for the most part. Tyler Reid swung a dangerous cross in not long after kick off but Coventry’s ‘keeper cut it out before any harm could be done. Owain Jones dropped an equally threatening cross after 20 minutes but Coventry withstood the pressure.

Highly rated Swans forward Oli McBurnie saw a golden opportunity deflected over the bar just before half time as neither side could break the deadlock.

The second half got underway and almost sent the Swans fans into a frenzy as McBurnie thrashed a shot from close range but Charles-Cook in the Coventry goal denied him yet again. Finally, the breakthrough came as Alex Bray worked his way into the box only to be toppled by Coventry’s Ryan Haynes – Oli McBurnie confidently dispatched the resulting penalty: 1-0 Swans.

In true Swans style; the young lads continued to press as they looked to extend their advantage but the excitement seemed to get to them five minutes before the final whistle. A dubious foul saw Coventry in a glorious position and George Thomas’ lofted delivery found striker Jordan Willis: 1-1 and penalties followed.

Disappointingly, only Aaron Lewis and George Byers were able to convert their penalties with Botti Biabi and Ryan Blair both giving the ‘keeper too much of an indication of where they were aiming their spot kicks. Tremmel failed to save any of Coventry’s penalties and the young Swans crashed out of the Checkatrade Trophy 4-2.

Despite a disappointing result, the Swans development squad can hold their heads high as Quarter Finalists and the last remaining Under 21’s squad in the competition. The future is bright for Swansea and it’s arriving at precisely the right moment as Paul Clement seeks fresh talent from the development squad to bolster his team for the Premier League relegation battle.

Monday 23 January 2017

Thank God I Was Wrong - VICTORY!

Who says that pessimism doesn’t help a club succeed? Well, Paul Clement for one! An unbelievable reversal of fortunes saw the Swans triumph over Liverpool at Anfield for the first time ever in the league and give the new manager his first Premier League win since taking over – what a way to do it eh?

There are a lot of talking points to discuss but one key factor, for me, was the performance of Fernando Llorente. The Spaniard has been linked all month with a move away from Swansea but put on a show that made it clear that his future lies with us – a massive relief!

The first half was typically casual by both sides and there was little to shout about save for Tom Carroll’s 20th minute effort crashing against the post; it would’ve been some debut if his shot had avoided Dejan Lovren. Not long before Carroll’s effort, Jordan Henderson picked out Emre Can and the German was given far too much space to pick his header; thankfully it was an atrocious effort that spun over the bar.

And, of course, let’s not forget Adam Lallana firmly believing he’s a better footballer than his overall performances suggest. Lallana’s overhead effort ended up so far into the stands I’d be surprised if the ball made it back onto the pitch…

The first half defensive display was actually very promising overall. Far less errors to mention and the back line looked organised – I can’t help but think Martin Olsson’s experience has given structure to the back four.

The second half really kicked into life when Dejan Lovren handed us a corner under very little pressure and Fernandez’ unchallenged header dropped the ball nicely for Llorente to, quite literally, poke home. It might not be the best goal Fernando ever scores but it might end up being one of his favourites.

Two minutes passed and Liverpool looked all over the place. I can’t believe how easily Olsson’s deft touch managed to set Tom Carroll off down the left and how superb the young midfielder’s cross was for Llorente to power home – a flash of sheer brilliance from the Swans and proof of Carroll’s quality.

Sadly, the wave of excitement caused us to lose our heads about 60 seconds after Llorente’s second as Roberto Firmino got the better of Olsson to head past Fabianski. A glimmer of hope for the hosts saw Klopp replace the largely ineffective Coutinho with the fragile Daniel Sturridge and it was game on again as we rawked up to the other end only for Mawson to head Gylfi’s cross narrowly wide.

Irritatingly, Wijnaldum remembered briefly how to play football and delivered a cross of world class standards for Firmino to pluck out of the air before hammering the ball home. Pundits are hailing it as a contender for goal of the season but I prefer a half volley to hit top bins rather than scythe into the bottom corner – not fantastic control but a goal nonetheless.

The goal of the game came for Swansea to be honest (no bias!) as Tom Carroll played a huge part in another goal. His pass might’ve deflected into Sigurdsson’s path but it still reached its intended target and Gylfi made a mockery of Simon Mingolet by lifting the ball straight over the on-rushing Belgian.

In summary? Liverpool never led the game and never looked capable of doing so. Fernando Llorente looks content and rejuvenated and Clement’s new signings look like just the class of player we need in the race for Premier League survival – great day all round.

Friday 20 January 2017

Liverpool v Swans: Clement's Second Bite

Paul Clement will no doubt be suffering with a hangover from his first game in charge; a senseless 4-0 defeat, and he’s probably cursing the people responsible for arranging the fixtures as his second game in charge is set to be equally as difficult – we’re off to Anfield to take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Ordinarily, there would be a great sense of optimism around a squad with a new manager and new signings but I just don’t feel there is at the moment. Martin Olsson is a great signing, I’ve always been a fan of his, and Tom Carroll has a very bright future but there’s just a ‘So What’ vibe about them both – I’m not saying I expected a bid for Cristiano Ronaldo but something more inspiring please?

Personal feeling aside, both the new boys are available for the trip to Liverpool and Olsson’s arrival couldn’t have been better timed. Neil Taylor’s fractured cheekbone is going to keep him out for at least three weeks and possibly more – the new boy is virtually guaranteed a starting place this weekend and what a test for your first game!

We still don’t have any details on Leon Britton’s mystery injury but as and when the grapevine starts shaking we’ll let you know. Realistically, it doesn’t look good for Britts getting a game tomorrow so there’s every chance that Carroll may make his debut from the start in his place – Clement has bought quite intelligently when you think about it.

The bad news is we’ve never beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League and the only victory we’ve recorded against them in the last five attempts was in 2015/16 at the Liberty. It would be nice if that streak was broken but Liverpool are unbeaten in 25 at home and looking for 26 when our lads come knocking; I can’t see us getting much from this.

We still need to invest, if there’s money left over, in an experienced striker and a solid defender. I can’t believe that Jose Fonte is on his way to West Ham for a measly £8 million – surely we should’ve chucked our name in the hat? And as for a striker, Dimitar Berbatov is still without a club and is probably worth taking a risk on!

For me, this game has loss written all over it purely because I’m a realist. I think even the die-hards are saying draw as far as I’ve heard so not a great mood around the city but I reckon we should just get this one over with and look on to the rest of the season.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

The Week That Was

Apologies for the lack of updates this week chaps; it’s not been an easy one at Forza Towers and unsurprisingly it hasn’t been the easiest week for the club either. Our new manager, Paul Clement, hasn’t enjoyed the best start to his Swansea career but this weekend did see him facing up against one of the toughest tests the Premier League has to offer: Arsenal.

I can accept that games against Arsenal are going to be difficult but did we have to make it so much easier for them? Own goals from Cork and Naughton basically handed Arsenal a win by a much greater margin than they actually deserved; it was hard work to watch overall. In fact, the first half an hour drifted along without much incident save for Naughton’s decent effort that forced Cech into making a save early on.

Of course we went on to concede a few minutes later and no it wasn’t a penalty; Ki went down so easily you’d imagine a gust of wind would give him problems. Alex Iwobi might feel hard done by not to have two more goals on his tally for the season but Cork and Naughton were forced into finishing off his efforts to hand Arsenal an unassailable lead.

Alexis Sanchez naturally found his way onto the scoresheet after Routledge’s challenge on Ramsey gifted the Chilean the ball – not good.

I’m pleased to say it isn’t all doom and gloom as Norwich City have gifted us Martin Olsson for around £4 million. The left back will add a lot of stability to our back four given his wealth of experience and his arrival is right on time after it was confirmed Neil Taylor is out for at least three weeks with a broken cheekbone.

It looks all but certain we’ll be focussing on width in the second half of the season as winger Luciano Narsingh has joined from PSV – hopefully he’s more effective in the Premier League than his former PSV team mate Memphis Depay…

Finally, Marvin Emnes has returned from his loan spell at Blackburn which has added fuel to the Llorente departure fire. It’s by no means guaranteeing that Fernando will leave the club that brought him to the Premier League but the issues at Chelsea regarding Diego Costa might force their hand into making a bid for the Spaniard.

As you may have gathered by now, I rarely comment on speculation but Paul Clement has told the press (apparently) that paperwork is set to be completed on a deal for Tom Carroll from Spurs but it remains to be seen if it’s a loan or a permanent deal – I suspect the latter.

Updates will be more frequent from now folks; stay safe!

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Back on Track

Well, I hate to say I told you so but I definitely did. Renewed optimism thanks to Paul Clement's arrival not only brought a more confident performance out of the players but it also brought three vital points that drags us off the bottom of the Premier League table.

Granted, three points only moves us up one place to 19th but we are now only one point behind Sam Allardyce's Crystal Palace who gifted us the win. What kind of side sits back having equalised? Zaha's goal should've encouraged Palace to attack our back line but they let us in at the death!

However we win, I'm just glad that we do.

There's still a lot to be done but Alan Curtis praised Paul Clement in his post match interview for his support ahead of the game. He didn't interfere with Curtis' team selection and he didn't interrupt the gameplan in anyway - he was happy to watch on as the boys did the business.

I'm really pleased to see Alfie Mawson getting himself on the scoresheet and picking up man of the match - at 22 years old he's got a bright future but he's already looking the real deal. It was a shame that we had to rely on two defenders for our goals but they all count no matter who gets them.

Did Fernando Llorente's mind look elsewhere? Not as far as I could tell. He seems focused on the job at hand and doesn't seem unsettled in the side - we just need to supply the right balls for Llorente to capitalise on!

Are we going to survive? Time will tell. There's nothing to say we will and nothing to say we wont so I think its best to give Clement a few games to settle in and we'll assess his progress over time.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Palace Swansea Preview

Who doesn’t remember the reverse of this fixture from November? It was a key moment for Bob Bradley as he somehow coached the side into a 5-4 victory over tonight’s hosts Crystal Palace. If anything, it was the beginning of the end for Alan Pardew and now we’ll be travelling to meet Sam Allardyce with Paul Clement no doubt in the stands watching on.

Palace were a very different side in November and injuries have taken their toll since then. There are potentially eight first team players out tonight for the Eagles but that doesn’t stop them fielding a pretty intimidating starting XI that will include Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend.

Closer to home, only Jefferson Montero is injured and will be until next month unfortunately but Jordi Amat is suspended thanks to his antics against Bournemouth. Most media outlets are reporting that Fernando Llorente is doubtful for tonight’s game but no-one can confirm as to why – it is possible that the rumours surrounding his Swansea future are true but it remains to be seen.

SkySports have suggested Llorente picked up a knock against Bournemouth but he didn’t look in too much pain when he was substituted. I could be wrong but I would’ve thought he’d have shaken any complaints off having only played an hour.

To say this game is over before it’s started is cruel and the pundits are doing us a great disservice at the moment. Alan Curtis will likely take charge of the game tonight before Clement takes over formally but that doesn’t mean Palace will walk all over us. Let’s not forget that we beat them earlier in the season and there will be renewed optimism thanks to the confirmed appointment.

I just think pundits are too quick to judge these days, especially when they have no idea what they’re talking about. Bear in mind these are the same group of ‘experts’ who said Zlatan was too old for the Premier League, Aston Villa would be at the top of the Championship by now and that tonight’s opposing manager, Sam Allardyce, would never work again!

Don’t get me wrong, I can predict the future but tonight’s game will be well worth watching if you’re attending or even if you know how to stream the footage. It was a brilliant game last time around and I’m confident it will be this time too.

Introducing: Paul Clement

It’s about time a decision was made but it’s something of a surprise name given the initial media coverage. Even I didn’t consider the prospect of Paul Clement leaving Bayern Munich to manage the Swans but a four and a half year contract is on the table for him to sign when he arrives at some point on Tuesday morning.

So Pardew is still without a job. Ryan Giggs has once again been ignored for a Premier League job (surprise surprise!) and both Steve Clarke and Gary Rowett must wait their turn for a place in the top flight – but there are some concerns.

The length of the contract offered to Clement worries me. It’s almost as though the club have conceded to relegation and want Paul to come in and coach the existing squad without spending in January. Very brave considering we are all expecting results and survival this season never mind heading back to the Championship for god knows how long.

Equally, Paul Clement has just one full time manager’s position on his CV and he lasted 33 games – that’s it! He has worked very closely with Carlo Ancelotti at some of Europe’s biggest clubs but as an assistant or as a coach; not exactly what we were after if I’m honest.

I think that most of the fanbase will be happy enough with Clement for the timebeing but things could go sour very quickly if he doesn’t get some points on the board by March. He doesn’t stand too much chance of securing funds for this transfer window but might be awarded some money in the summer if he manages to keep the club in the Premier League.

Time will tell but at least we have a manager to take us into 2017!